Britannia Season 3 – 8 x 1-hour series for Sky
Transmission Date: August 24th 2021
The Romans versus Celts epic Britannia (on Sky) returns for its third season and Lola delivered over 400 shots as the show’s main VFX vendor.
The production was only 10days into filming when it was shut down in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Filming resumed again in September 2020 with a very intense schedule aiming to make up some of the lost months. Blocks double banked alongside recces and planning for later blocks. While this was a logistical challenge, Lola supervisors Ross Wilkinson and Richard Reed spent the winter months covering all of the on set supervision requirements. Once back in the studio the race was on to deliver all 8 episodes in a very compressed 5 months.
Lola’s work this season includes full cg city builds of Rome, Verulamium, Alus’ Villa, and a Roman redoubt as well as digi crowds, digi doubles, insects, trees, a fully animated psychedelic Veran tree, a marshland, wagon trains and last but not least full Roman aquaduct that had to integrate seamlessly with the geography of the landscape/environment plates and partial studio lot and interior studio set build.
Rome was built by Lola leads Alex Marlow and Reece Weldon. Alex improved apon Lola’s City Engine from The Watch and was able to create the ancient city using a historically correct footprint of Rome for the key buildings. The rest of the city was then procedural populated using elements from Kit Bash and our period accurate digi crowds. The same approach was taken for the build of Verulamium (now the modern city of St. Albans).
One of the main and most challenging set pieces was the battle on the viaduct. Lola were involved from the early pre-production planning stages to produce tech vis to test the limitations of the studio space for the shoot. This proved very beneficial for the production. Working through all the shooting scenarios available production ultimately decided to shoot the bulk of the scene on the runway at Bovingdton to try to capture as much in camera as possible.
The viaduct location in the episode was a composite of multiple locations. “In reality, one side of the viaduct was 300 miles away from the other.” VFX Supervisor Ross Wilkinson explains. The script called for the viaduct to be under construction so the Art Department built a practical arch and multiple sets of scaffolding that could then be reconfigured for shot variety and which the actors ascended. The practical build shot green screen was then enhanced with cg extension. The base was modelled on a practical viaduct at Hewenden in the Midlands. Photogrammetry and plate reference for this was captured using a drone unit from “SP Films” and was supervised by team Lola during lockdown. All this work allowed the directors to create some exciting dynamic cameras that stitched together multiple plates of photography from the various locations.
Due to covid filming restrictions the team also had to build high quality digi doubles to fill in for the limited numbers of extra Romans and Druids for several sequences. The 3d team at Lola also handled the formentioned crowd and other creature work this season to include a demonic butterfly and a psychedelic Veran Tree monster.
The 2D team, lead by Andre Brandt, had the chance to test some new workflows on episode 6. Before Veran enters the villa, a magical smoke enters and extinguishes the flames of the courtyard. Using emberGen (a real time fluid simulation package traditionally used in games) and Eddy (a volumetric renderer for nuke) 2d artist Chris Maw was able to simulate fluids and light them in nuke. This helped take pressure off the 3d team and let the compositing team have some fun using the power of Nivida’s RTX gpus.
Lola VFX Exec Producer Rebecca Kelly and Line Producer Ashlin Green, with the additional support of Merve Erdem, kept a demanding schedule on track and delivered within budget back at base camp.
Britannia was Co-created by playwright Jez Butterworth, who also co-wrote films including Ford Vs Ferrari, Edge of Tomorrow, and the James Bond adventure Spectre. The cast includes Sophie Okonedo, David Morrissey, Mackenzie Crook, Annabel Scholey, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, and Zoë Wanamaker.
The series was Produced by Rupert Ryle-Hodges and Matt Carver.
Directors are Ben Gregor (Fatherhood, The Midnight Beast), Joasia Goldyn (Cocoon, Time is Short) and Mackenzie Crook (Detectorists, Worzel Gummidge ). Showrunner and the show’s writers are Jez and Tom Butterworth and executive producer James Richardson.